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Alberta university students call for end to budget cuts, tuition increases

Students from the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta are planning a province-wide rally in an attempt to reverse budget cuts and freeze tuition increases.

U of C drama students voted to hold a one-day strike, cancelling all of Monday's classes, to send a message to the province that students are unhappy with the recent changes to post-secondary funding.

"These cuts affect everyone from biology students to engineering students to business students to drama students," said Students' Union arts representative and elected drama strike spokesperson Sofia Huarte Aguilar.

"We all deserve affordable education."

In Edmonton, students plan to march from the U of A campus to the legislature to take their message straight to elected officials.

"Last year, almost half of all provincial cuts to the post-secondary sector were absorbed by the University of Alberta. This year another $52 million was cut, bringing the total to roughly 222 million," read a post on the University of Alberta students' union Facebook page.

"The Alberta government has also approved the university’s tuition increases for new domestic students. These tuition increases from 17 per cent to 105 per cent in several key programs. Students believe that these increases are not needed."

This comes as U of C students are bracing for significant tuition increase with some programs planning to increase tuition by up to 105 per cent for future students.

Meanwhile, provincial leaders are focusing on the positives of these tuition increases, with the additional money reportedly being reinvested into the post-secondary system.

"Post-secondary education in Alberta continues to remain affordable and competitive with other provinces," said Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides in a statement to CTV News Monday. "In fact, tuition in Alberta is below the national average. With respect to funding, post-secondary institutions in Alberta have operated at much higher funding levels than their comparators in other provinces. For example, in 2018/19, total government investment in institutions, per full time equivalent, was $13,967 in Alberta yet in BC total government investment was $9,890 per full time equivalent and $7,164 in Ontario.

"Over the past few years we have worked to bring post-secondary funding in-line with other provinces and we have made considerable progress in that regard and are now providing new investments into post-secondary education."

University budget cuts led to a rally for U of C caretakers earlier this month.

The University of Calgary issued a statement Monday afternoon.

"As an academic institution, UCalgary supports respectful, free speech. The university has been transparent with students and the community over the past three years regarding its plans to align tuition with the requirements of the Alberta Tuition Framework," it read.

"We hear the concerns of students who have shared their views with us during townhall events, Tuition and Fees Consultation Committee meetings, and throughout the governance review and approval process. Student feedback helps to shape the annual tuition proposal that has resulted in tuition rates at UCalgary remaining lower, in many instances, compared to other U15 post-secondary institutions. 

"UCalgary continues to invest a significant amount of its annual budget on scholarships and bursaries for students requiring financial support. A list of these resources can be found on the Registrar’s Office web page."

With files from CTV News Calgary's Mark Villani and Virginia Wright Top Stories


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